Margaret Sanger Opens First Birth Control Clinic in the US

A little bit of “today in history…” thanks to the Mid-Columbia Today radio show. Quoted from Wikipedia:

On October 16, 1916, Sanger opened a family planning and birth control clinic at 46 Amboy St. in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States.

Wikipedia emphasizes her compassion for women whose lives were dominated by the children they bore. She herself was one of eleven children. In 1912,

Margaret and William became immersed in the radical bohemian culture that was then flourishing in Greenwich Village. They became involved with local intellectuals, artists, socialists, and activists for political reform, including John Reed, Upton Sinclair, Mabel Dodge, and Emma Goldman. Starting in 1911, Sanger wrote a series of articles about sexual education entitled “What Every Mother Should Know” and “What Every Girl Should Know” for the socialist magazine New York Call.

Besides her mission of mercy toward overburdened mothers, Wikipedia also describes a deeper agenda, “Sanger believed that through selective abortions and birth control the white race could be purified and what she termed as the ‘undesireables’ could be controlled.” For example, “The mission of the clinic in Harlem was to control and help limit the African American population.”

Sanger founded the precursor to Planned Parenthood in 1921, and was eventually president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. From her own life, it’s clear that the “planning” advocated by Planned Parenthood is meant to be done partly by the parents, and partly by social engineers like Sanger. In that respect, she was a product of her time, when communism and eugenics were fashionable even in the United States. While not all advocates of abortion today would agree with Sanger’s deeper agenda, it’s likely that many do. The reason it’s not advocated so openly today is the intervening period of Hitler and the Third Reich, with their aggressive eugenics and racial purification programs. On that scale, the world recognized this agenda for the evil that it is. The evil becomes harder to recognize when seen in the idealistic agenda of a single person, or even a “family planning clinic,” but it’s really a difference in magnitude only, not a difference in kind.

Meanwhile, here is what our Large Catechism says under the heading of the Fourth Commandment:

In addition, it would be well to preach to the parents also, and such as bear their office, as to how they should deport themselves toward those who are committed to them for their government. For although this is not expressed in the Ten Commandments, it is nevertheless abundantly enjoined in many places in the Scripture. And God desires to have it embraced in this commandment when He speaks of father and mother. For He does not wish to have in this office and government knaves and tyrants; nor does He assign to them this honor, that is, power and authority to govern, that they should have themselves worshiped; but they should consider that they are under obligations of obedience to God; and that, first of all, they should earnestly and faithfully discharge their office, not only to support and provide for the bodily necessities of their children, servants, subjects, etc., but, most of all, to train them to the honor and praise of God. Therefore do not think that this is left to your pleasure and arbitrary will, but that it is a strict command and injunction of God, to whom also you must give account for it.

But here again the sad plight arises that no one perceives or heeds this, and all live on as though God gave us children for our pleasure or amusement, and servants that we should employ them like a cow or ass, only for work, or as though we were only to gratify our wantonness with our subjects, ignoring them, as though it were no concern of ours what they learn or how they live; and no one is willing to see that this is the command of the Supreme Majesty, who will most strictly call us to account and punish us for it; nor that there is so great need to be so seriously concerned about the young. For if we wish to have excellent and apt persons both for civil and ecclesiastical government, we must spare no diligence, time, or cost in teaching and educating our children, that they may serve God and the world, and we must not think only how we may amass money and possessions for them. For God can indeed without us support and make them rich, as He daily does. But for this purpose He has given us children, and issued this command that we should train and govern them according to His will, else He would have no need of father and mother. Let every one know, therefore, that it is his duty, on peril of losing the divine favor, to bring up his children above all things in the fear and knowledge of God, and if they are talented, have them learn and study something, that they may be employed for whatever need there is [to have them instructed and trained in a liberal education, that men may be able to have their aid in government and in whatever is necessary].

And under The Fifth Commandment:

Therefore the entire sum of what it means not to kill is to be impressed most explicitly upon the simple-minded. In the first place, that we harm no one, first, with our hand or by deed. Then, that we do not employ our tongue to instigate or counsel thereto. Further, that we neither use nor assent to any kind of means or methods whereby any one may be injured. And finally, that the heart be not ill disposed toward any one, nor from anger and hatred wish him ill, so that body and soul may be innocent in regard to every one, but especially those who wish you evil or inflict such upon you. For to do evil to one who wishes and does you good is not human, but diabolical.

It should go without saying, but Luther would consider unborn human babies to be protected by this commandment just as much as any other human being. There can be do doubt about that.

It’s Nice to be Super Wealthy

The politics of this year keep coming back to “the Bush tax cut,” often pilloried as a “tax cut for the super rich,” who already “fail to pay their fair share” of the tax burden. I remember that tax cut fondly, because my family began seeing a lot more money in our bank account. I must say that it’s nice to be super rich. Maybe some day our household annual income will break $100k. In fact, it seems more and more likely now, with all the new money being created out of thin air to make possible the record federal spending of the last four years. The only question is what all that super-wealth will be able to buy when it’s over.

Seriously, I think this talk about the super rich is meant to make us envious of our neighbors. This might be a good time to revisit the 9th Commandment, among others. Yes, they apply even in the voting booth. So why not review what they mean? Just keep in mind that your neighbor’s legal income is really his, not yours to obtain through the political process, in the Orwellian name of “fairness.”

The Brewing Controversy in WELS and How to Avoid It

A distant acquaintance of mine, Rev. Paul Rydecki, has been suspended from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod for teaching false doctrine. This has come to me even through some of my own members, who are concerned and a bit confused. The accusation is that Pastor Rydecki denies the doctrine known as Objective Justification (OJ for short), also called by some Universal Justification, or for those who like many words, Universal Objective Justification, which I find a bit tedious. OJ is a biblical teaching emphasized by various people in our Lutheran heritage, notably C.F.W. Walther, who has been nicknamed “The American Luther.” Luther himself emphasized it in several places, as do the Lutheran Confessions. It’s an abstract proposition closely connected with the doctrine that the suffering and death of Christ has made full atonement for every sin ever committed by a human being. On the basis of that atonement being paid in full, Christ rose from the dead in proof that God has accepted this as propitiation for all of those sins. Objectively speaking, Christ’s work has justified every sinner. This is an important doctrine, because it allows us to speak the Gospel of God’s forgiveness to every person we meet, at any time they ought to hear it. Because justification is objectively accomplished, there can be no doubt that this proclamation of forgiveness is true, whether we are speaking it to our neighbors, or we are hearing it applied to our own sins.

Over the last century or more, our appreciation for OJ has increased dramatically. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, our appreciation for OJ’s sister doctrine, which is equally true, may have diminished: Subjective Justification (SJ for short). This is also emphasized in the writings and confessions of the Lutheran heritage. It’s complementary to OJ. In fact, they are equally necessary for our salvation. SJ is possible because of OJ. Somewhere, I think Luther uses the illustration of a poor beggar who is discovered to be the heir of a prince. His newly-discovered identity gives him not only a new family and title, but eventually even lands, castles, etc. All of these things are objectively his, but it doesn’t benefit him at all unless he believes that this is true. If he rejects the royal messenger and goes on begging for the rest of his life, it doesn’t change who he is and what he possesses. However, none of those possessions would help him in the least. Likewise, OJ is received and becomes a benefit to the sinner only when God creates faith in his heart to believe the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. That’s SJ. Every time the Lutheran Confessions mention justification “by faith alone,” they are speaking of SJ, often in opposition to the notion that it involves human works or merit.

It’s part of human nature to make mistakes. Yes, even WELS (or ELS) pastors have this nature. Yes, even ELS (or WELS) officials and administrators have this nature. Shocking, to be sure, but true nonetheless. But since we have a Savior, these mistakes need not trouble us. Instead, we should be troubled when we fail to recognize, repent, and correct any of our mistakes. Thankfully, we are often quite vigilant in helping to correct the mistakes of our Christian brothers. It comes naturally, because we so easily see the specks in their eyes, while the planks in our own remain invisible to us. This process of correction requires and encourages humility.

It doesn’t appear to me that Pastor Rydecki made any serious doctrinal mistakes that should threaten the integrity of the body of Christ. I could be critical of some things, but they would probably fall under the category of nit-picking. He has, however, done a great service to the Lutheran Church by restoring a measure of focus upon SJ and its necessity. He has called attention to some places where individuals in the WELS have perhaps been a bit careless in their vocabulary, or even emphasized OJ to the point of denying the need for SJ. As an example of sloppy vocabulary, consider one of the litmus-test questions asked him by his ministerial supervisor, “Did God forgive the sins of the world when Jesus died on the cross?” My response might be, “How precise an answer do you want?” If a precise answer is required, I would then ask, “Do you mean ‘forgive’ in the sense that the world appropriated this forgiveness and was thereby saved? Because that’s how I usually use this word. Or do you mean that God accepted Christ’s atonement as the all-sufficient basis for providing forgiveness to every sinner, who must then receive that forgiveness individually through faith in the Gospel?” You may not see a difference, but there is an important one, flowing from the distinction between OJ and SJ. If you don’t get it, then read the question again, carefully this time.

Without careful attention to the way we communicate the truths of holy scripture, there could well be a raging controversy about the article of faith by which the Church stands or falls, the very doctrine restored to its position of importance by the Lutheran reformation. How ironic that would be.

How about the supervisor’s second litmus-test question, “Has God justified all sinners for the sake of Christ?” If precision is required, we must reply with a second question, “Do you mean OJ or SJ?” Pastor Rydecki seems to have had SJ primarily on his mind, due to the recent unfortunate trend that has been letting it slide. It seems likely that his supervisor had OJ primarily in mind. The distinction between the two was not fully articulated during the time of the Reformation, as it has been in more recent centuries, but it is nevertheless an important one, as evidenced by the brewing controversy.

See Pastor Rydecki’s explanation for more on this subject. I’m sure that more will be written about it. Please keep Pastor Rydecki, his family, his congregation, and the WELS in your prayers. Kyrie eleison.